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A Saint Is Born in Chima A Novel by Manuel Zapata Olivella

A Saint Is Born in Chima A Novel

Part of the Texas Pan American Series Series


A Saint Is Born in Chima A Novel by Manuel Zapata Olivella

When the paralyzed cripple Domingo Vidal is rescued unsinged from a burning house, the people of Chima believe they have witnessed a miracle. Domingo becomes their patron saint, and tales of his miracles multiply. Domingo makes the rains come, cures the blind and lame, and swells barren wombs with new life. But is Domingo really a saint, or is he a pagan idol? Padre Berrocal calls the people heretics, but they are afraid not to worship Domingo. To what excesses will superstition and ignorance drive the frightened people of Chima? This novel, published in 1963 as En Chima nace un santo, makes important connections between the frustrations of poverty and the excesses of religious fanaticism. Zapata Olivella indicts the dogmatic attitudes of religious and civil institutions as a major cause of the creation of local cults like the one that grows up around Saint Domingo. In Zapata Olivella's compelling narrative, the struggle over Domingo points up both the inflexibility of established institutions and the potential power for change that lies within the hands of a determined populace.


Zapata Olivella uses folklore, religion, economics and psychology to illustrate how a revolutionary myth evolves.... The excellent translation by Kooreman well conveys the simple language of the believers as well as the subtly ironic tone of the author. In spite of the building tension and the unexpected ending, the novel carries a clear, if grim, message of optimism: social justice is entirely possible in this world, but armed resistance will be the way to impose it. * International Fiction Review * A superbly conceived novel, A Saint is Born in Chima is written in a controlled, terse style not characteristic of Colombian fiction of the time [1964]. The fine translation by Thomas Kooreman gives American readers the opportunity to read one of the most accomplished Afro-Latin-American writers. * Review: Latin American Literature and Arts *

About the Author

Colombian Manuel Zapata Olivella (1920-2004) was a pioneer in the field of Afro-Hispanic literature. Thomas E. Kooreman is Professor Emeritus of Spanish at Butler University in Indianapolis.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1990


Manuel Zapata Olivella

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University of Texas Press


124 pages


Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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